To expunge a record means to completely eliminate it from one's criminal history, as if it never happened. Once a record is expunged, you gain back your rights to vote, hold office, gain child custody and more. In Florida a judge can grant or deny any expungement request as long as they meet the standards defined in the Florida Administrative Code. If you are unable to determine whether you are eligible for expungement, seek the assistance of an attorney. If you are ineligible, you may be able to petition to have your record sealed instead. A sealed criminal record is not viewable by the general public but still exists in your criminal history.
Review your criminal history to ensure that everything is accurate and that you know exactly what the charge is that you are requesting expunction for. Request a copy of your record through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Criminal History Information page. (see Resources) There is a processing fee, which was $24 as of June 2010.
Check the Florida Department of Law Enforcement list of Reasons for Denial page to find out if you are eligible for expunction. (see Resources) Basically, if you have been found guilty of, plead no contest or guilty to any crime, with a few exceptions, you are not eligible. Some exceptions are first offense drug possession and alcohol related crimes. Crimes for which you were not found guilty are eligible for expunction. If you find you are eligible proceed to the next step. If not, consider filing to have your criminal record sealed.
Apply for a certificate of eligibility through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Download and complete the Application for Certification of Eligibility. (see Resources) You can also mail a request for one to the Expunge/Seal Section or call 1-850-410-7870 to have the application sent to you.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement ATTN: Expunge/Seal Section P.O. Box 1489 Tallahassee, Florida 32302-1489
Get a notary to witness and approve your signature in section A of the application. Section A is used to establish your identification and charges for which you are requesting to be expunged. Contact your local law enforcement agency to complete the fingerprint portion of the application. Schedule an appointment with the agency to have your fingerprints taken for application of certification eligibility.
Obtain a "certified disposition" of your case from the clerk of courts of the county in which the conviction occurred. A certified disposition is a document which contains the details surrounding your cases as documented by the courts. Bring a cashier's check or money order to your local clerk of courts to pay for the nonrefundable application fee, which was $75 as of June 2010.
Hire an attorney to complete section B of the application as you are not allowed to complete it yourself. If you are unable to pay for an attorney, you may not be able to complete the application. In the event that you are not able to secure an attorney, contact the Florida Attorney General's office to request an attorney that will handle the case for free.
Office of Attorney General State of Florida The Capitol PL-01 Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050 Telephone: Citizens Services: 850-414-3990
Mail your application to:
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Attn: Expunge/Seal Section P.O. Box 1489 Tallahassee, Florida 32302-1489
Wait for the court to schedule a hearing on whether you will be granted an expungement. The more accurate and complete the paperwork you submit, the faster the process will be. If there is any evidentuary documentation supporting your reasoning for expunction, which you did not already submit, bring it with you to the hearing. If you are denied, you may be allowed one appeal. Check with the clerk of courts as each court can make their own determination on appeals. If your municipality allows for appeals the clerk of courts can provide you with the paperwork to start the appeal process.